Legislature asked to rule in taxidermy dispute
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- The Legislature has been asked to settle a dispute between South Dakota's taxidermists and the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.
The taxidermists argue that a bill introduced on their behalf would help clarify which records they must keep and would limit what game wardens can seek during an inspection.
Taxidermists acknowledge that inspections are rare, but they contend game wardens sometimes want to see so much that an inspection resembles an unconstitutional search.
"There seems to be a problem with what exactly inspection is and when it's performed," William Klager of Stratford, vice president of the South Dakota Taxidermy Association, told a House committee last week.
But Game, Fish and Parks Department officials argue that HB1215 would hamper investigations of poachers by limiting when the department's conservation officers can visit taxidermy shops and by preventing the inspection of animals left at those shops.
If the bill passes, taxidermists who have been busted in other states will be drawn to South Dakota because the state would have weak laws, said Dave McCrea, the department's law enforcement administrator.
"We might as well set out a welcome mat for these kinds of renegade taxidermists to set up shop in South Dakota," McCrea said. "This bill guts our authority to regulate the taxidermy industry and also to protect our wildlife resources."
Both sides agree change need to be made, but they disagree on what those changes should be.
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held its first hearing on the bill last week. The panel will likely vote on the measure this week at either its Tuesday or Thursday meeting.
The Game, Fish and Parks Commission has held several public hearings since it began working in May to write new rules governing taxidermists. The Legislature's Rules Review Committee, which looks at state agency rules during the months the Legislature doesn't meet, has asked the commission to hold further hearings in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
Until now, the commission's rule on taxidermists has consisted only of a sentence that sets the taxidermy license fee at $10.
State law currently requires taxidermists to keep a written record of all birds, animals and fish they receive. It also says their books, offices and other buildings where specimens are kept must be open to inspection by Game, Fish and Parks officers at all times.
The proposed bill would specify that written records must include the name and address of each specimen's owner, the number and species received, and the dates each specimen was received and then delivered to its owner. It also would allow the department to inspect those records only during normal business hours.
Klager said the proposed law would help taxidermists by clarifying what records they must keep.
Taxidermists work with game wardens to help catch people who violate the law, but they also do not want officers to have complete freedom to rummage through their possessions, Klager said. Some conservation officers seem to think taxidermists' records are only kept to help in criminal investigations, he said.
"We're not a bunch of outlaws hiding behind taxidermy doors," Klager said.
McCrea said the language of the taxidermists' bill would prevent officers from looking at specimens that might be illegal. Many taxidermists work in other jobs during the day, so they have no normal business hours, he said.
McCrea said an officer needs the ability to check a taxidermy shop quickly at night because evidence of a crime might have disappeared by the next morning.
The bill would strip the Game, Fish and Parks Department of its ability to regulate and inspect taxidermists, McCrea said.
Most taxidermists report that they have never been inspected, so it doesn't seem as if the department has abused its authority, McCrea said.
Game, Fish and Parks Secretary John Cooper said he agrees with the taxidermists that the rules need to be more specific in describing what records must be kept.
He asked the lawmakers to let the Game, Fish and Parks Commission continue trying to find a compromise version of the rules acceptable to both the department and taxidermists.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
Advertise on JHO / Blogs / Fishing Guide/Outfitter reviews / Facebook - JHO / Gear Reviews / Home, Main Page / Hunting Guide/Outfitter Reviews / Links / Online Store / Photo/Video Gallery / Sponsors / Turkey Scratchins blog / Twitter - Follow JHO / YouTube Channel
"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a brave and scarce man, hated and scorned. When the cause succeeds, however, the timid join him... for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." -Mark Twain